From Trash to Music

Make some noise for Kelsey Rae and 2B1, who upcycle trash into musical instruments, building awareness on climate change.

By Charvi Arora

July 2023

From Trash to Music

American band Kelsey Rae and 2B1 use landfill-rescued items to make their musical instruments. (Photograph courtesy Drewlio Photography)

Kelsey Rae and 2B1 can make you groove to the sound of your trash. This five-member American band rescues garbage and brings it back to life as musical instruments, using them in performances around the world. 

The group—Kelsey Rae, Ivan Cruz, Pablo Barragan, Ryan Dahir and Anthony Grant—has been touring for the last decade to build awareness on climate change. Using upcycled suitcases, toolboxes, metal trash cans, rubber barrels, pots, pans and other landfill-rescued items, they spread the message of saving our planet. 

The band performed in New Delhi, Mumbai and Pune in 2023. SPAN spoke to 2B1 leader Kelsey Rae on the sidelines of the Climate Action Festival at the American Center in New Delhi. 

Excerpts from the interview.

Can you tell us how you see music’s role in climate action?

I see music’s role in climate action as a way to plant a seed with the youth and all ages globally. Music is a universal language, and while the entire world is feeling the results of climate change, our music brings a voice for the planet.

Tell us about the musical instruments you use. Do you have any favorites?

We have a wide variety of unique instruments—a tool box and washboard guitar, trash cans, rubber barrels, pots, pans and much more. I would say my favorite has to be the guitars. They always strike up a creative conversation in some way. 

What response have you seen to your upcycled musical instruments? 

We’ve heard about young people creating instruments, art projects, even clothing designs of recycled products after seeing our show. A big part of our performance is including the audience and allowing them to share ideas and ways they can help make a difference. The response and creativity we have seen is amazing.

What are your thoughts on inspiring more young people to take up recycling?

The whole purpose is to continue inspiring the youth for as long as I can. I do believe recycling is a big part of creating change. However, reducing waste is even more important. So, I am dedicated to continuing to bring conversation through song. I feel it is the reason I was given the gift of a voice, it is meant for something beyond myself. 

How do you connect with youth to start conversations about their impact on the environment through songs they recognize? 

The show’s energy and variety is what really stands out. Our younger audience recognizes some songs, but not all.  We cover songs from Bob Marley to Michael Jackson and also have a few originals such as, “Be One World and “Calling Out (both recorded in Africa).  They are all meant to make you feel good, hopeful and energized. 

What message do you want to get across with 2B1?

Our goal is to continue to connect with every race, culture and age group all around the world. We’re all in this together and connected to every being on this planet. Our message is 2B1 with our planet and 2B1 with one another. 

Please tell us about your experiences of performing in India.

India was such a wonderful experience. The youth and people inspired us beyond belief. We were blessed enough to perform at numerous schools, with an amazing puppeteer, Ramlal Bhatt, and with the talented drum group, Dharavi Rocks. We connected and created so many friendships and learned so much about India, its amazing food, and rich culture. 

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